Essential Cape Cod Travel Tips 2024

cape cod travel tips

It’s never to early to start your Cape Cod Travel Plans! Getting around the Cape can be made easier if you keep these Cape Cod travel tips in mind.

sand dunes on cape cod_cape cod travel tips

  • When visiting the Cape, avoid using your car and opt to walk or bike to nearby beaches to save on parking fees that can go as high as $30.
  • The Upper Cape is ideal for a quiet vacation while still experiencing the Cape and will offer you a traffic-free break.
  • Avoid traveling on Saturdays because it’s the turnover day.
  • Visit Plymouth Rock to see the landing spot of the Mayflower and Plymouth Patuxet on your way to the Cape.
  • Bike the trails and visit the National Seashore if you’re an outdoor enthusiast.
  • Head to Mid Cape if you are looking for the best shopping and amusement experience, especially for kids.

More Advice When Making Cape Cod Travel Plans

1. Visit the Plymouth Rock & Plimoth Patuxet

plymouth rock on cape cod_cape cod travel tips

If your Cape Cod travel itinerary includes driving to the Cape, a stop in Plymouth not only provides a welcome rest but also a great chance to learn more of the history of the area and the country.  Driving to Plymouth Harbor you can see Plymouth Rock, where it is said that the Mayflower first landed in the US.  Every year, up to 1 million people visit Plymouth Rock.

Anchoring in the harbor you will also see the replica of the Mayflower II, which is open to the public daily, starting April 13th. Combination tickets can be purchased for both the Mayflower II and Plimoth Patuxet, at a reduced rate if you want to take the time to explore both on your way to the Cape.

2. You Don’t Need to Visit the Entire Cape

fishing boats on dock on cape cod_cape cod travel tips

If your Cape Cod travel plans are limited to a weekend getaway or a short vacation, don’t try to visit the whole Cape. With 15 towns on Cape Cod, where many of the towns are divided into smaller villages, there is a whole lot to see and do!!  Most locations represent the vibe of the entire island, with their own nuances.

Many visitors choose to stay in one of the regions (Upper, Mid, Lower or Outer Cape) and spend their time exploring that area, rather than waste hours in traffic trying to experience it all. The towns of Wellfleet, Truro, and Provincetown are bordered by the National Seashore and offer wide-open expanses of beaches and trails.  Each region has its own beaches, lighthouses, shops and fabulous restaurants.

However, if your vacation is a week or more, you may want to consider a day trip to one  of the islands off Cape Cod, like Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket. You will need to book one of the ferries that will take you to the island for a fun day of exploration.

3. Fish is Fresher Closer to the Ocean

You will find your choice of seafood shacks and fine dining restaurants near the water for the freshest dining experience. Originally named for its abundance of cod, the Cape in now equally famous for its oysters, that are shipped all over the globe. Also there are 7 types of clams found on Cape Cod.

You can also take advantage of the Cape’s abundant seafood by fishing your own. Try surf casting or dig your oysters, clams, or mussels and make a clambake on the beach.

However, make sure you get a fishing license since all Cape Cod towns require one and also permits to have a fire on the beach.Check out this link to find official guidelines for getting one, pricing, etc.

4. Avoid the Weekends, Especially Saturdays

cape cod and providence road sign_cape cod vacation tips_cape cod travel

Cape Cod roads are heavily occupied on Saturday mornings and afternoons because that’s the time most people are checking out/checking in. Also, it’s when most people choose to run errands.

If you avoid planning your trip on the weekend and instead opt for weekdays, you can find lower nightly rates at hotels and smaller crowds.  This also reduces the hassle of traveling since large crowds mean heavier traffic on the two bridges leading to Cape Cod.

During this time, you want to steer clear of Route 6, which is the only road that winds through the entire Cape. Taking even a left-hand turn on this road can be the most time-consuming during these hours.

5. Take the Back Roads

Get off the beaten track, take the back roads for more scenic views, and spot the many kettle ponds on the Cape.  The scenic routes may be faster at the peak of Cape traffic when the highways are congested.  Regardless, when you take the scenic roads like 6A

6. Grab the Ferry from Boston

photo of ferry from boston to cape cod_cape cod travel tips

Grabbing a plane flight to the Cape even in the cheapest month–September–can cost you from $1000-$2000 roundtrip for a family of four.

If you’re traveling on a budget, a much better alternative is to take a boat from Boston, which costs $58 for a one-way trip.

The Bay State Cruise Company and Boston Harbor Cruise sail from Boston to Provincetown.

7. Catch the Cape Flyer

This train operates from Friday to Sunday only during Memorial Day till Labor Day and runs from Boston’s South Station.  This is a two-and-a-half-hour charge that stops at Braintree, Middleborough, Buzzards Bay, and Hyannis. Service begins on May 24, 2024.

The cost of a round-trip from Boston is $40, which is pretty economical. Also, children under the age of 11 ride for free. And if you bring your bike to drive around to nearby beaches, you can save a bit on gas money costs.

8. Don’t Drive if you can Bike/Walk

Save on time and gas money while on the Cape by choosing to bring your bike or rent one.If you can walk or bike to the beach, don’t opt for a car. This is because parking fees can go up to $40, and that’s if you get there early enough to find a parking space.

Additionally, if you’re visiting Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard, leave your car at home. Taking your vehicle on the ferry there is quite expensive, and there is sufficient transport available once you get there.

9. Climb a Lighthouse for Spectacular Views

1 1Visit one of the many lighthouses on the Cape. Some lighthouses are open and offer tours but you will need to check their websites to verify when you make your Cape Cod travel plans.

Climbing to the top of any of the fourteen lighthouses lining the Cape provides a breathtaking vantage point and a view like no other.  Watching the shoreline with boats gliding across, the clear skies, and beautiful waves will have you feeling the nostalgia of the Cape’s past.

If you are prepared to climb, Scargo Tower in Dennis, the Province Land Visitors Center and  Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown also offer great views of the Cape.

10. Go Kayakingperson kayaking near cape cod_cape cod travel guide_things to do on cape cod

The long stretches of the shoreline at Cape Cod and open waters make it ideal for water sports.

There are different areas with different levels of waves that are suited for everyone. If you kayak at Duck Beach or Great Island, the waves are gentler and more comfortable for beginners.

If you are traveling with kids; you can opt for the tandem kayaks, which allow you all to paddle together.  And if you choose a guided tour, your guide will hand-pick a perfect location for your group’s skill level.

11. Get A Permit to Drive an ORV

If you want to get off the beaten path, you can get a permit to drive your Off Road Vehicle on the beaches. Besides the thrill of adventure, you will have access to some of the more remote and pristine beaches of the Cape.

A week-long permit costs $50. For this small price, you can enjoy that beach adventure you want!

12. Bring a Light Jacket

Cape Cod travel requires you stay flexible and able to adjust to changing weather patterns. While there are many sunny beach days on the Cape, but sometimes summer weather can be cooler than expected. The ocean water temperatures average around 66 degrees during the summer season.

Cape Cod weather can fluctuates quite a bit, especially at the shore. It can get cool pretty fast, so it’s always good to be prepared and have a sweater or light jacket with you.

 13. Mid Cape = Less Traffic

If you choose to stay in the Mid Cape area, you’re close to a choice of beaches and around an hour’s drive from almost every town. This way less of your vacation is spent in the car.

If you’re looking for a lively vacation, you can opt to stay in Hyannis, which has almost 70% of the Cape’s population and promises a lot of the hustle and bustle. Or if you are vacationing with children, Yarmouth is a good choice for a multitude of adventure activities for the younger crowd.

14. Upper Cape for a Quiet Vacation

dock with boats near cape cod_cape cod vacation tips_things to do on cape cod

The Upper Cape offers the Cape Cod experience without the intense tourist crowds. Visit North Falmouth or Woods Hole for a peaceful time.

Old Silver Beach offers warm, calm waters ideal for swimming in for your kiddos. You could also walk across The Knob, which extends into Buzzards Bay and offers the most scenic views.

You can best get a complete survey of the Upper Cape by following the Shining Sea Bikeway that winds through North Falmouth all the way to Woods Hole.Along the way, spot the beautiful sea, marshes, and sanctuaries overflowing with wildlife and rare birds.

15. Plan your Trip Around your Interests

sand dunes near cape cod_cape cod travel tips

If you’re big on outdoor activities, you will want to visit the National Seashore. The place offers a variety of hiking trails winding through the Cape’s picturesque beauty.  Follow a guided program during May-October to spot the trails, marshes, historical attractions, and visitor centers in Salt Pond and Province Lands.

If you’re a bigger fan of shopping and entertainment should opt for the Mid Cape region–the towns of Dennis, Yarmouth, and Barnstable. Or if you are traveling with children, you will find many of the adventure parks in the Yarmouth area.

If you’re a history geek, visit Nantucket’s maritime attractions like the Whaling Museum, which houses the unique whale history of the Cape, including artifacts from whaling ships and a skeleton of a giant sperm whale.

Cape Cod Travel Tips Conclusion

When visiting a new place, it’s best to gather as much information about it as you can.  These Cape Cod travel tips give you a run-down of the most essential things so that you’re prepared when visiting the Cape as a first timer.

Hopefully these tips help in planning your Cape Cod travel and creating memories to last a lifetime!




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